Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are celebrating with family and they have procured a 28 lb bird that is home raised. We're not sure about the breed but the shape looks a little different from the run of the mill store bought birds so it might be a heritage breed.

Weather is calm at 25°F with a light cloud cover. Wind is reported at about 12 mph but we're surrounded by trees and things at ground level are calm. Perfect weather for a cook!

This bird was not injected so we brined it for about 20 hours using:

  • 2 C pickling salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 6 C apple juice
  • 2 C orange juice
  • 1 C lemon juice
  • 1 C lime juice
  • Sufficient water to bring volume up to 2 gallons.

After brining, the bird was rinsed about 15 minutes and spitted. With the spit in place I stuffed the cavities with:
  • 2 limes
  • one orange
  • 2 onions 
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • sprigs of thyme, sage and rosemary (all fresh from the garden.)
This time I took some little metal skewers and trussed up the openings so the fruit doesn't fall out as the bird rotates. I was also able to achieve fairly good balance so if the bird doesn't shift on the spit, we should get good rotation. Before putting the bird on, I spread the outside with oil. (Ordinary cooking oil - canola.)

Spitted and trussed and ready to spin!
I brought along my older Platinum (22.5 Weber kettle) on which to cook. This is fitted with my home made rotisserie ring. We're firing with Cowboy Lump and using chunks of cherry and apple for some smoke flavor. I'll be aiming for a little less than 300°F lid thermometer temperature as the last bird finished pretty fast.

Turkey on and cooker closed up.
I need to do a better job trussing these birds up. By an hour in, the leg end was loose and rolling on the spit and the stuff from the cavity was mostly in the drip pan.

About an hour into the cook.
timetemp comment
Lit lump dumped in the bowl on either side of a double drip pan and cooker closed up.
11:45350°Bird on! 
11:55300°Closed bottom just a bit more. No desire to rush this one. (Started cook with bottom vent about half open.)
12:38220°/282° (lid/spit)Added ET-732 probe to spit rod opening for second opinion temperature measurement. The lid therm is reading low!
2:50220°/282°While out running, temperature started dropping so son put more charcoal in and cleared the vents of ash. Temp seems back up. Probed meat and got about 155°, breast and thigh. Skin on back and legs is splitting so I brushed the bird with more canola oil.
4:40???/300°180° breast and a little less thigh so it's off and resting.
(lid/spit) => Weber lid thermometer and Maverick ET-732 probe stuck in by the spit rod opening.

Turkey was tasty but dry. The information I saw that suggested I take it to 185° was bogus. Also this bird had no fat. None evident in the usual places and none in the drip pan.

What to do differently next time: Don't go to 180°! If I have one that's devoid of fat, I need to baste more and/or put some butter under the skin. An injection of butter might be good too.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Turkey Trial

For Turkey Day I'll be cooking a 28 pound bird. A little later for First Friday I'll be doing a 20 lb bird. I'm thinking of using my rotisserie for this so I will run a trial today using the cheapest frozen 12 pound bird I could pick up. (Jenny-O, $0.79/lb) I'll do it on the Performer using left over lump and some apple and cherry for smoking wood.

We're running 39°F under sunny skies with winds brisk at about 15 mph.

With the turkey ready I started fire building about 2:30 PM. That's piling the left over mostly lump into the chimney and getting it lit. I also split up some chunks of apple and cherry for smoking wood.

This smoke is being done on the Performer using the Rotisserie ring. The bird has been stuffed with sliced orange, onion, garlic and fresh rosemary, thyme and sage. Part way through the cook I moved the covered Silver A upwind of the Performer to afford some block from the wind. Didn't seem to make much difference.

timetemp comment
2:55 PM
Dumped lit lump out on either side of a drip pan and dropped a couple chunks of apple and cherry on the coals.
Rotisserie ring in place and spitted turkey rotating. Counter weight does not quite offset the eccentricity but helps I suppose.
3:22300° (lid)Temp seems to have settled here for now.
3:45305°Took pix and bird has lots of color! And the stuffing is falling out of it. :-/
4:20250°Probed 155° by thighs and 135° in breast. Was the breast still a little frozen when I started? Also added more lump and smoking wood.
4:50300°Breast probed 156° and thigh about 160°. Huh?
5:10300°Breast probing 167° and thigh at 166° - Done! Off and resting.
Cooker temps measured using the lid thermometer.

Bird about 45 minutes in.
Almost ready to take off the grill.
Partly carved
Turkey was very good! Skin was crisp and smoke flavor good. White meat ... was not dry. It's never going to be as moist as the dark meat which was very moist on this bird. Some of the stuff in the body cavity came out but the bird still tasted good.

What to do differently next time: I need to truss up the body cavity better so stuff doesn't fall out. Maybe leave an orange cut in half and run the spit through it to plug the opening. Maybe I could back off on the heat after the first half hour or so. It must have been pretty hot to finish a 12 pound turkey in 2:10.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Do you want to smoke?

This is another departure from my typical record of a cook. It is for the benefit of friends who want to have a go at smoking but aren't ready to plunk down hundreds of dollars for a Weber Smokey Mountain. Weber kettles are very versatile charcoal cookers and with proper technique can make terrific BBQ. My suggestion is to watch for a decent used kettle. The bowl and lid are porcelain coated and unless beat up badly, will last for decades. Grates and the One Touch system parts are wear items and can be had at your local Ace Hardware of Amazon for a modest price. Or go crazy and get a a 22" OTG (One Touch Gold) for about $150. (I do recommend sticking with the 22" kettle vs. the smaller 18" size.) Whereas Weber kettles are often available used, the Smokey Mountain is almost as rare as hens teeth on the used market.

Here is an article that the proprietor of The Weber Kettle Club wrote to compile various methods to smoke on a Weber: 8 Easy Options to Smoke on a Weber Kettle. Techniques I have personally used include the charcoal basket and my recent favorite, the snake:

Photo credit: cookingmama at Weber Kettle Club
I used a double snake the first time I made pepper stout beef to get a higher temperature and it worked very well.

This got me 375°F+ and worked well for the first and second stages of cooking the beef.

Want to smoke? Do it!